Local Indigenous Rights Champion Mourned By Community

Chief Andrew Thomas of the Esquimalt First Nation has passed away unexpectedly early Saturday. He was a champion of Indigenous rights, assisting in the creation of the Assembly of first Nations. Thomas was also an executive of the First Nations of South Island Tribal Council, after 47 years as Chief he helped the Esquimalt First Nations thrive. 

Esquimalt First Nation released this statement;

“It is with heavy hearts that we share with you news that, in his seventy-first year, ‘Seenupin’ our dear Chief, Andrew Thomas passed away unexpectedly early this morning (Saturday) at home. Chief Thomas was Hereditary Chief of the Esquimalt Nation for 47 years. Chief Andy, as he was fondly known, was a strong leader and a dedicated and determined champion of Indigenous rights. He was a devoted husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, brother, uncle, friend, partner, teacher and colleague; and he embraced these responsibilities with pride and honour.”

“His wisdom, courage, and love will continue to inspire all who knew him.  Chief Andy's death represents a profound loss to the Esquimalt Nation and Community members share with his family their immense sorrow. The Thomas family thanks you for respecting their privacy at this tender time. There will be an opportunity to gather to remember and honour Chief Andy's life and his many contributions, and to celebrate his reunion with his ancestors.”

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps had this to say upon learning of Chief Andrew Thomas' passing.

"Today, we lost a great man and leader, Chief Andrew Thomas/Seenupin of the Esquimalt Nation. Chief Thomas was a champion for his people. Grappling with the ongoing legacy of colonialism, he became dedicated to ensuring a prosperous future for the youth of his community.”

"He was also a very personable, funny and committed man who will be greatly missed by everyone on Victoria City Council and the entire community. I have been honoured to know Chief Andy Thomas over the course of my time on City Council and particularly through our Witness Reconciliation Program and City Family. He was an inspiration to me and to Council, and his legacy will live on as we continue to walk together on this new path of truth and reconciliation.”

"Chief Andy said to us 'Reconciliation is your work, your responsibility. We will work with you, guide you and share the labour but it is your burden to carry, and you must do what is needed to put that burden down, piece by piece. As a City and as a community we will continue to do this work in this spirit. On behalf of City Council and the City of Victoria, I extend sincere condolences to the entire Thomas family at this difficult time."

Details of Chief Andy’s accomplishments and details of his memorial will be shared in the coming days. Thoughts, prayers, and wishes for Chief Andy and his family can be directed to katie@esquimaltnation.ca

At the request of the family, we have removed Chief Andy Thomas' photo from this story to follow the cultural protocols of the family.

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